Tag Archives: theme music

Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Films #2

Her Name Is Calla – Condor and River

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Favourite HK New Wave Period Action – Once Upon A Time In China

That might seem like a fairly narrow category, but if I simply try ‘favourite Hong Kong action’ the choice becomes impossible, and considering the vast amount of genres within the HKA film industry, this makes things much more simple. (Romance was easy, action was hard – way too many favourites). That being said, this comes pretty close to being my  favourite film of all time (I admit to watching it over 50 times since I first saw it  over 15 years ago), so perhaps the heading of this post is a little irrelevant anyway.

The theme song was a definite challenge, too, but before I get to that…

OUATIC (1991), directed by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, is semi-fact and fiction. It tells (part of) the story of Wong Fei Hung, who was something of a real-life Chinese folk hero. I have no idea how many films have been made about him, but let’s just say there’s a hell of a lot – Kwan Tak Hing alone starred in a total of 99 films as Master Wong.

If you watch the trailer above, you’ll hear the theme song for the film. I should note that the piece of music used for that comes from a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)  folk song called Under the General’s Orders – the adapted version is called A Man Should Better Himself. This song – and the music of it – is not just the theme of the film, but has been long-since adopted as the theme song for the man himself, and decade’s worth of films about Master Wong have used it. It is a piece of music that is instantly recognisable and immediately associated with Wong Fei Hung. Below is an instrumental version.

I actually love that piece of music, and have a version on CD with none other than Jackie Chan providing the vocals.

 

A hero walks alone...Just one of many examples of the stunning cinematography

Before I saw OUATIC, I had seen a handfull of Jackie Chan films and thought they were pretty darn good. After I saw it…a veritable obsession with Hong Kong action cinema was born. Throughout the 90’s, I collected around 400 films on VHS, right up until the introduction of DVDs, after which the release of HK films in Australia virtually screeched to a halt (funnily enough, this happened to coincide with the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China – a cause for a little unrest in itself within the HK film industry, but that’s a different subject entirely). The film has everything you could possibly want – beautiful cinematography, jaw-droppingly good fight choreography, despite the obvious use of wire-work (thanks to the legendary Yuen Woo-Ping, probably familiar to most others as the choreographer for the Matrix trilogy), drama, romance, tragedy… There’s pretty much nothing it doesn’t give the viewer in an exciting, dynamic, captivating and impressive way.

There’s a bunch more I’d like to say about the film and its history in general, (read: I wrote several other paragraphs and realised this was getting far too long), so on to the theme song I’ve chosen. As mentioned previosuly, this is not an attempt at giving the film itself a new theme song, but an attempt at finding a song that epitomises some other qualities – very difficult in this instance because, like everyone else, the music and film are pretty much inseperable in my head.

If you’re familiar with either, the theme song may be looking a bit odd. Along with the reason already mentioned, this was the hardest challenge so far because all of my immediate picks were themes from other films, which I wanted to avoid. What I did want, was something that I could draw certain similarities to. Condor and River, in terms of subject matter, has nothing in common with OUATIC, but it is an epic, breathtaking and thrilling piece of storytelling that is not only one of the band’s finest moments, but a masterpiece of the genre itself. Translate that to the film, and Jet Li, and it’s spot on.

Admittedly, I also wanted to avoid picking a song by someone I never shut-up about, but 4 out of 5 ain’t bad…

 

S4E

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Theme Songs For Favourite Things – Films #1

Tori Amos – Here In My Head

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Favourite Romantic Comedy – Amélie

French title: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, which translates to The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain

I’ll start by acknowledging I’ve probably set myself a complicated challenge with this particular notion, as – quite obviously – films generally have dedicated theme songs. With the nature of a theme song being what it is, these things aren’t just loosely associated, but rather the original theme song and film tend to become quite intrinsic to one another. So these can be considered less a theme for the films, and more a theme that summarises something about what they mean to me.

I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies in general, but I suppose the reasons why are applicable to most genres of film – clichés, boring characters, formulaic scriptwriting… All the things that make movies feel like you’ve seen it all before yet they remain instantly forgettable. One of the things that makes this film so special is that it captures what happens to the heart when it loves, rather than doing that thing most other romantic comedies do – make fun of how people react to it. Not to mention that it is probably one of the most charming films ever made, and full of whimsy. And I do like me some whimsy.

As you may have seen in the trailer, Amélie is a French film, starring the gorgeous Audrey Tatou (and please do watch it in its original language, if you decide to see it. Rarely do dubs convey the same level of emotion and/or other necessary things as the actors that spent months getting to know their characters). It’s a little difficult to describe this film in any language other than consistent sighs, particularly as I want to steer clear of spoilers and all the key reasons why I love it would contain exactly that.  In a very vague and over-simplified summary, though, it chronicles Amélie’s attempts at bringing a little magic into the world of those around her, while being afraid to truly venture out into it herself.

The music of the soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen, with the signature piece (arguably, maybe) being La Valse D’Amélie; below is a solo piano version that is just beautiful:

Even if it was my intention, it would be nigh on impossible to compete with music that is perfect for the film in every way, so the theme I’ve chosen speaks more to one of the lessons I took from it.  Here In My Head, like most of Tori’s songs, can be interpreted in a few different ways, but I think  the key theme is relevant – namely, the references to what can happen when you live in your head, even though in other ways you can give out so much of yourself. Amélie is a supreme fantasist, and while it means she has a profound effect on those around her, her actions are ultimately of a vicarious nature and she struggles to find a way to connect with the object of her desire in any way other than through a series of contrived, mystery adventures.

 

Amelie fantasises while baking a cake

I think… Sometimes, no matter how little or how well others may know us, we’re the only one up in that mind of ours and for some that can be a retreat. It’s a safe place to go, where imagination, fantasy and thoughts can be driven by – or to – things that we want, love, need… All the things that we yearn to bring close, because there’s not much that’s closer to a person that what goes on in our thoughts, considering it’s the most private, internal emotional process we have. But in that way it can actually have the opposite effect and distance us from those things in real life. Ultimately it can make it that much harder to come out from there and form real connections with people, where they are subject to the flaws of human nature and dangers inherent in real life and circumstance.

There’s a lot of scenes in the film that (to me) shoot straight at the heart. Little things like the bold gesture of inviting him to her then being too afraid to reveal herself, even though he’s sitting there saying ‘I know it’s you…‘, then watching him leave,  literally dissolving into a puddle of water on the floor. While there’s probably countless films that had a scene or two in them that got me a little teary, usually upon a second watch it doesn’t quite have the same impact, but I have to admit that the scene where she’s baking a cake and starts daydreaming about  not a different life, but one that’s simply shared with someone else that knows you well – just a little every day circumstance that makes her laugh and cry –  gets me every single time.

And so does this song.

 

S4E

PS Just in case it doesn’t happen automatically, to ensure the English subtitles appear in the trailer, click the CC button as pictured so that it is highlighted in red:


Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Cars

Deftones – Passenger

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Favourite Car – Torana LX SLR 5000

It would be foolish of me to pretend that I know more about this beautiful piece of machinery than I actually do, as well as quite against the purpose of these posts to get overly technical on everyone. Thus, if you’d like to learn more, check out Holden Torana, or Wikipedia for a decent history and overview of the various models.

What I will say is that the Torana is an icon of Australian motoring history, both in sport (racing) and socially. I have a lot of fond memories associated with these cars (and not the typically teenage car / backseat type memories, I’ll just point out. Those are reserved for the Kingswood – which is also a Holden). Most of the memories I have are associated with family road-trips in a white LC model. Aside from the obligatory fights between my brothers and I over who would get to ride in the front seat, I loved just watching the suburbs slowly disappear and become vast fields of Salvation Jane or dense, dark forests, rolling hills, steep cliffs and the occasional, long-abandoned crumbling stone cottage or graveyards filled with headstones from the 1800’s – the kind of things that drove my imagination wild.

In later years, I had a massive crush on a guy who drove an LH, (and I assure you it was about the guy, not the car). We’d sometimes go out on midnight drives, the kind which put our lives in danger in general just for the sheer thrill of it, but I was always too scared to tell this guy how much I liked him. Such is the folly of youth, I suppose – getting things the wrong way around and being prepared to risk a life but not the heart.

With production on the Torana models ceasing in 1980, these now vintage cars are highly coveted by many, including myself. Alas, while my mother paid $400 dollars for one in the mid-80’s, some models now fetch well over $100k, though – depending on condition – it’s possible still to find them under $10k. As things stand, for the time being it’s one for the ‘if I ever get rich…‘ list.

While I’m here, I may as well mention that Holden are also responsible for another car I’m quite partial to, the Monaro, which itself is a beautiful car and would be the definite runner-up as far as  favourite go.

Holden HX Monaro GTS

But the Torana gets the gong for all the memories I have with it. In terms of performance, I’m not even remotely capable of making a judgement and I don’t really have the inclination to change that, I’d rather appeciate the beauty of the beast from an entirely aesthetic and nostalgic perspective. I’ve picked the SLR over the other models simply because it’s my dream car.

As for the theme song, well I hope it’s fairly self-explanatory… The Torana is one damn sexy car, and DeftonesPassenger is suitably one of the sexiest songs there is, with Chino Moreno and Maynard James Keenan (Tool) delivering an intriguing – not to mention breathless – duet.

While I’m still footing it in most of my travels, and I’m very far from being the type of girl who will jump in any kind of car without knowing much more than the name of the driver, anyone who rolls up next to me behind the wheel of one of these, I’ll at least give ’em a wink just for their supremely good taste (in cars, that is).

 

 

S4E


Theme Songs for (not so) Favourite Things – Spiders

Gotye – Hearts A Mess

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(Not so) Favourite Spider – Huntsman on My Window

Actual size

As I write this, that spider up there and I have been having a staring contest for about an hour. Or, to be more precise, its been winning consistently for about an hour, because I keep looking away. And it hasn’t even blinked one of its eight eyes.

It dashed up into my line of sight and sent me flying out of my chair, heart in mouth, while I tried to determine just exactly which side of the glass it was on and, and then just sat there, dead still. Looking at me. We have this little thing going on – it looks like it’s waiting for me to do something, and I’m definitely waiting for it to do something. So we sit and wait until we’re comfortable enough with each other to do something more.

24 Hours Later…

I’m almost at ease with the distant presence of this spider; which is a little strange because it seems like it’s eliciting the slowest, most obvious stalk ever. It creeps to various vantage points on the window intermittently, as though it’s performing a calm, gratuitous moving along with a sideways glance so as to  appear inconspicuous, then stops to continue peeping through my window. It reminds me of those cartoon spies who follow their targets with newspapers at the ready, ducking behind them should their object of pursuit get suspicious and turn around. I almost expect to hear a soft, casual whistle while the spider moves to its next spot, all eight eyes looking anywhere but at me.

Spiders most definitely are not a favourite thing of mine, at least not on the traditional sense. I probably fear them (irrationally, for the most part) just as much as I admire them. The golden wheel spider is incredibly cool, but even the ones that can’t cartwheel down sand dunes at the (relative) equivalent of 300km per hour do some amazing, fascinating things. Maybe soon I’ll work up the courage to have a little conversation and ask this one if there’s anything in the world it finds amazing. Or if it really is more scared of me than I am of it.

Fear, of course, is quite often not about probabilities (of which logic plays a major role), but possibilities (of which logic can at times play no part at all). Knowing that something isn’t very likely to hurt you isn’t always enough to make you feel safe to get close enough and give it the opportunity. Believing that I have greater capacity to hurt this spider than it does me, does nothing to take away the possibility that it could.

I’m ok with this spider being on the other side of my window, waiting for whatever it’s waiting for, being amazed at whatever it finds amazing, with its distance ensured by an impenetrable shield of glass. But I wonder how happy it would be to stay that close to me if it had just the tiniest inkling what I would be capable of if it managed to find a way inside. Perhaps it does know, perhaps it’s sitting there being amazed – or amused – at the idea this other creature in the world would turn from mildly curious observer to panicking predator if it was 5 milimetres closer.

On that note, the theme song for the huntsman on my window is Gotye‘s Hearts A Mess – chosen in part for the rather apt and very cool film clip, but mostly for all the other things it unwittingly made me think about.

 

S4E

 


Theme Songs for Favourite Things – Flowers #2

Niobe – Shirocco & Mistral

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Favourite Flower Name – Love-In-A-Mist

This probably seems like an odd thing to favour, at least enough to not just dedicate a post to it, but ascribe it a theme song as well. However, I saw the name well before I saw the flower and – in my interminable girlish romanticism – thought it was a lovely name for just about anything. As you can see, there’s much to admire about the flower in a visual sense as well.

For the slightly boring stuff, Love-In-A-Mist is otherwise known as nigella damascena, and is most commonly found in various shades of blue, but can also be pink, white and purple.

To top it off, it is obviously not only the namesake, but an integral part of Love In A Mist by Sophie Anderson, the beautiful portrait pictured below.

Ok, so enough of the pretty pictures and on to some suitably lovely music to match the kind of places my imagination goes when I muse the name of this flower…

I’ve spoken about Niobe, and specifically the album White Hats, here on S4E before, not long after I started writing here, in point of fact. Back then, I alluded to the other-wordly nostalgia her music creates, describing it as “a calm and graceful sound that is at once enchanting“. If you concentrate purely on the words Love-In-A-Mist, you may be able to see why I’ve chosen one of her songs as its theme. If not, just take a listen to the beautifully intriguing Shirocco & Mistral and hear the reasons why instead.

 

S4E